A four-and-a-half-hour drive west of Denver in Rangely is the Tank, a seven-story former water silo that has operated as an experimental sound studio since the mid-1970s. the Tank Center for Sonic Artsas he wore his mark in 2013, is preparing to launch his own label, Round Sounds.
Musicians have been performing in the silo for decades, drawn to its unique acoustic qualities, rustic aesthetic, and/or relative isolation. Many performances have been recorded and featured on social media; the Tank has been uploading performances to SoundCloud for almost a decade under the name TANKsounds. From now on, future performances will be released under the Round Sounds label, which will enhance the credibility of the work.
James Paul, executive director of the Tank, sees the label as an opportunity to expand music streaming on popular platforms like Spotify under a unified design and management. He also hopes to ensure radio broadcasting.
Round Sound’s name was found in Tank’s newsletter, where he asked his nearly 10,000 subscribers to submit suggestions. Among the finalist nicknames were TANKsounds and Rangely Records. But the winning title came from Californian Helen Holgate, who linked up with the Tank through a board member and flautist. Sherry Finzer.
The official launch of Round Sounds will not take place until September 2022, to allow time for fundraising, publicity, graphic design and audio work. The Tank is also looking for executive producers for its label, having already secured half of its $42,500 operating budget from four funding sources. Interested parties can become Accredited Executive Producers with donations of $5,000 or more.
Last year, members of the Brooklyn-based collective’s orchestra National sawdust performed two movements from different Beethoven quartets, which were streamed live on Zoom and recorded in the Tank. The bands collaborated to create a 45-minute slowed-down version of the moves, which normally take seven minutes to play. The result, “Slow Beethoven”, would be Round Sounds’ first release.
“The musicians were [playing] so slowly that they were cramping,” says Paul, “but it ended up being this beautiful, otherworldly, Beethoven-esque hum of a piece. We want to spread this to the world. We hope it will appeal to classical, new age and other genres.”
For the past nine years, the Tank has been outfitted with professional recording equipment, provided through grants and other funding, which is housed in a refitted shipping container a few feet away. The Tank staff also includes two audio recording professionals.
The Tank allows free public tours on Saturdays throughout its performance season, which runs from May 1 to November 1, and it also hosts an annual Solstice Festival in the summer. As for the winter, since 2019 the Tank has been organizing an open-ended artist residency, known as Karbank Residency. Its recipients include guitarist/composer Bill Frisell and filmmaker Bill Morrison. The Tank’s future projects don’t end with Round Sounds: in collaboration with projectionist Paul Sangster, an upcoming documentary will highlight one of the Tank’s concerts/visual exhibitions from August 2021.
Once Round Sounds kicks off, more music will follow, with recordings from the next season of Tank performances. A typical pre-COVID season saw around 100 performances, from established and unknown musicians, Paul says, which means Round Sounds will have a variety of music to release after this summer.
“Anyone who comes to play [here], we always think, ‘Is this something we would like to release?’ So we don’t know what the next release will be,” Paul says. “It could be one of the big names that comes in, it could be anybody that shows up to the Tank.”
For more information on round sounds, visit the Tank Center for Sonic Arts website.